Nioh 2 Complete (Review)

Source: Review Copy (Which meant I had the DLC of ye original Nioh 2, and still died a whole bunch)
Price: £49.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Play with a controller. Make sure you get a comfortable right stick setting. Prepare to die a whole bunch learning this. This is your primary warning for Nioh 2, as it is unforgiving of mistakes.

I learned this… A lot. A lot a lot.

Meet your first exam. It’s a real killer.

So yes, Nioh 2 is an action RPG with slowish levelling, more requiring skill with equipment and your abilities than anything else (although what you can equip is limited by your stats, and you should definitely keep this considered), fixed attack animations (don’t be hammering on the attack keys), combat with a fair amount of depth, such as which stances to use, tactics, using your demon abilities well… You’ll get an exam on these real early on, along with the exam on “There are enemies you definitely shouldn’t fight unless you’re super skilled”, and the lessons will be painful.

Getting to your stuff you dropped when you died is not going to be easy if you died in a particularly nasty spot, and… Look, it’s a tough game with a steep early learning curve. Play the tutorials. Experiment. Be prepared to die a lot, or less if you’re already experienced in this. There’s a fair amount of timing to it, such as recovering your ki (stamina) by pulsing it at the right moment after a combo, which also serves the purpose of purifying an area, an important facet of fights with demons, because they can power up or use them.

I think I see why I’m being dunked on so mercilessly… I chose to play a nerd.

Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous. Lovely music, characters and monsters that really pop, taken from Japanese mythology and history alike, great sounds, and a clear UX. It’s good here. Writing wise, it’s stylish, and an early touch of the ghosts of your parents commenting on your character creation is… Okay, I teared up a little at hearing the character’s mother, who’d died messily not even thirty seconds earlier, say how we’ve grown so fondly.

But yes, it is tough as heck, and if that’s a turnoff, don’t bother, even with toning the difficulty down, mastering the systems I pretty much a must.

Beyond this, though, there’s… Not a lot for me to say. It’s good, and it has a lot of the stuff you’d expect from an RPG, with several different weapon types (I went edge, with a kusarigama and a switchblade, aka “It’s a scythe that turns into a bat’leth, deal with it, yokai.”), and… I enjoy it. Even if I die, and am going to die, time and time and time again.

This intro story shares a little with the story of the Red Oni and Blue Oni, but… I honestly just wanted an excuse to post a screenshot of a buff horny man with a big stick.

So, yes, if you’re either good at this sort of thing, want to struggle to play a cool game using Japanese mythology and history to tell a dramatic tale in a world of demons… This one’s good for you.

The Mad Welshman defends quick weapons to the death. Multiple deaths. Many, many deaths.

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Hades (Going Back)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £19.49 (£7.19 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Supergiant do it again. They keep doing it. I’m enjoying a game about a rebellious young adult, Zagreus, son of Hades, snarking and battling his way from his home at the lowest depths of Hades, trying to escape, in essence, a shitty family situation.

He’s right. I have no urge to consensually bully Dusa, who is cute.

Its aesthetics are gorgeous (God, so many fucking hunks!) Its progression feels natural, to the point where I knew where I was going, knew what I was doing, and was fine with dying over and over again, because I knew my grind would be rewarded. Its characters, even the grumpy and overbearing dad Hades, charmed me.

And thus, one of those times I hate is upon me, because I can’t say anything bad, so I’m struggling with what the hell else to say.

Okay, so, Hades is an action roguelike, in which, as noted, Zagreus, son of Hades, is attempting to escape, with the aid of his step-mother Nyx, the Olympian Gods, and a few other notable figures, including the most relaxed and friendly incarnation of Sisyphus I’ve ever seen. You start with one weapon, a sword, make your way as far as you can, get your ass beaten down, and come back for more, wading out of the pool of blood that forms the entryway to Zagreus’ home as he bitterly snarks or swears payback.

For the reason that it’s ever so cheesable, I love the spear. But every weapon is, honestly, appealing in this game.

He will escape. Because he cannot die, so he keeps trying, because he knows he can do it. And, as he does, he gets more powerful. He befriends various people, like Dusa, the disembodied medusa head maid of Hades’ abode (She’s so cute!), or Dionysus, who reminds me so damn much of Zaphod Beeblebrox that I find myself smiling. A chill dude, I like him.

Anyway, yes, the progression is natural, the sound design great, the VA good…

Look, I can’t keep saying nice things, so I will end with this: If you like action roguelikes, then yes, this is a good one to pick. It’s easy on beginners, it’s accessible (alas, never perfectly, for it is twitchy, but still), and, as mentioned, the grind feels less like a grind, and more like a natural state of affairs.

It’s criminal how hunky, laid back, and smooth talking he is. CRIMINAL, I TELL YOU!

It’s good stuff.

Call me, Dionysus, we had a fun time! xoxo

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Noita (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£7.99 soundtrack, £21.13 game and soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ahhh, Noita… Pixel by pixel simulation of object interaction. Want ice vapour to kill you? Don’t worry, particle by particle, you can do that! Want to put out that particle fire? Just hop in some particle liquid that isn’t particle oil, or sprinkle it on yourself! Want to shoot several particle streams of death, which then become more particle streams of death, and so on until your computer is screaming at you to stop? Yes, you can do these things, all of these things, so long as it’s through shooting things, bombing things, kicking things, throwing things, or spraying things!

Pixels! And many of them are currently very deadly!

You can also die in some extremely messy ways. And you will. Often. So yes, welcome to Noita, a procedurally generated roguelike in which you are descending into the depths of a mountain’s cavern/dungeon network, for… Reasons. I’m sure they made sense at the time, whatever those reasons were. It’s got some lovely pixel art, which, y’know, fits because of all those pixels that can be set on fire, slosh around, obstruct you and so on… And the music and sounds are good too.

It’s difficult, and at times twitchy, so if those are turnoffs, turn ye back now, and, as mentioned, it can get resource hoggy, so make sure your computer can handle it before trying it out!

Otherwise… Hot damn, the feeling of doing incredibly silly shit with your wands and potions, whether it works or not… No, really, it’s amusing to have thirty five arrows from a single cast, only for said arrows to bounce back at you because what did you expect when you fired 35 arrows in so many directions?

For this to be my situation on entering the level is a sign that maybe I should have run away. I did not. I died. I had a blast (and I got blasted.)

Well, you expected something amusing to happen. And you got it, even if you have to restart the game. But that’s okay, there’s probably even sillier things you can get up to! (There most definitely are.)

Any criticisms? Well… Apart from the game turning very resource hoggy when there’s a lot of stuff going on (and believe me, you can easily ensure a lot of stuff is going on, and so can some of the enemies), it’s in this weird space where the basic learning curve is actually quite easy… But the mastery curve is several sharp inclines, which, even with the potential for very amusing deaths, also creates some frustrating ones. Argh, why did I have to die just by getting shot? Boring! Also, some enemies, like the snipers, are… Oh god, they’re utter bastards.

Helpfully, the game now lists things you’ve found, and counts the secrets the game has. Yes, I mentioned secrets, and have found none personally. I know how to get them, I just haven’t tried.

But, overall, I love Noita. I love the destructive creativity. I love the war stories it can create. And, if you don’t mind a tough action roguelike, where you’re going to die in the first few areas a lot before you get further, you’ll like this one.

The Mad Welshman appreciates that wizards have no sense of responsibility. So consider sending wizards into this hellhole a chance for one of them to learn. Maybe.

Look, it’s enjoyable to send the bastards to their doom, alright?

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Undermine (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access

In a land with a great wizard, and quite a few warriors, clerics, etcetera, who’s going to save the day? Who’s going to stop the evil sorceress or what have you from bringing back an ancient evil? Who’s going to clean up the dungeons and stop the earthquakes?

One of a cavalcade of largely identical and disposable peasants. That’s who. And they pay the company store for their equipment. Yay capitalism! (Not yay at all.)

They will not be getting their pension, due to “Cost saving measures.” IE – Letting them die. They never got hazard pay.

And yes, that is basically the setup for Undermine: You are a peasant, who is very handy with a pick and has a gold hauling canary, and if you die, well, another, sometimes eerily similar peasant drops into the dungeon to have a go, trampling figuratively on the backs of those who died before them.

Which, for a shooty slashy roguelike sort of game with rooms filled with traps, enemies, gold, and the cute slimes that try to steal that gold when you mine it (oh, and bosses and shops, obviously), is actually a blackly hilarious setup. Instead of a dodge roll, you have a special power. An amazing power.

Yeaaaaahhh, this isn’t in my comp package. Because that doesn’t exist.

Peasants are the only buggers in this world who can jump. Take that how you will. In any case, swinging your pick, throwing your pick, dropping bombs, and occasionally chugging potions are your absolute basics here, along with “If you die, you lose some of your gold, and can either spend what’s left on improving yourself, or going right back in in the hopes that you make enough gold to get bigger improvements.”

It’s a tried and true method, and, honestly, it works really well here. The visuals are good spritework, the menus are clear, the enemies are interesting… And the bosses… Ahhh, these are some good quality bosses. Just qualifying enough in the category of “A Shower of Bastards” to make you hate them, but you get the idea of how to beat them pretty quickly. It’s just a matter of doing it. The difficulty curve is pretty fair… This is one of those games where it’s tightly designed, it’s fun, and I’d have to look really hard to find something I’m actually critical.

There, a screenshot where they didn’t die, from the training video! Except they died two or three minutes after.

And I have. And I’ve failed. So… Undermine: If you like procgen twin-sticky collected arenas-as-dungeons games, then yes, this is a good pick for you. I wouldn’t necessarily say it would be a good game for dipping your toes in the water to see if you like it, but I also wouldn’t say it’s a bad place to start.

And that’s Undermine. Eat the Wizards.

AWAB, is all The Mad Welshman has to say.

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Eastern Exorcist (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £13.49 (Demo is available)
Where to Get It: Steam

Being an exorcist in a world where demons not only exist, but have physical form, is a tough, dangerous proposition. And one’s heart needs to be like steel, as the protagonist quickly discovers. And so begins a journey of redemption, and perhaps revenge. Although I will say… Why the hell would you trust a Fox Spirit, a spirit well known for its lies and illusions? Ugh… Well, it makes for an interesting story.

Yes… How dare she turn into a vengeful ghost because we murdered her!

Eastern Exorcist looks pretty good. It even has an alright story. But… It has flaws. And gamepad comes heavily recommended. The various attack, parry, special, etcetera keys build up very quickly, and follow the JKL… Wait, no… H, JKL, UIO… And I’m sure Y will end up there pretty quickly. 8 buttons, not counting basic movement and jumping. That’s a fair amount, and, placed so close together… Either rebinding the keys for your comfort, or playing on gamepad is heavily recommended. And its gameplay…

This big guy moves more than this, but yes, he has a hefty recovery time for an equally heft boy.

It looks, on the surface, like an ARPG metroidvania. And maybe it improves from its somewhat basic formula later on… But the early game feels… Flat. I have a dash. I have a double jump. And yet… I don’t seem to use them much in the early game. The tutorialisation is, for the most part, pretty good, despite some segments being forced, but some concepts remain a little mysterious to me. And I meant to dash, and immediately hit J if I know it’s going to be a perfect, or as the symbol appears (usually when I’m too far away) or… It’s only one example, and the other mechanics, such as perfect parries or reflection, are explained well, but it’s a small thing that annoys me.

Moments later, they slashed me up but good. Not lethally, but still… Argh.

And so… I’m rather torn on this one. I’m not all that fond of what I call the “Gamepad heavily recommended ” games, and its early game feels flat in both the platform sense and the combat formula sense (Although that may just be me, as the enemy variety is solid pretty early on), but… It is Early Access, there’s plenty of time for it to improve, and the art style is definitely good, with well telegraphed attacks and clear signs of perfect dodge timing.

It’s one of these games where some problems are obvious to me, but others… Others are annoying me with not being able to properly pin my feelings down. It’s still one to at least watch, as I certainly didn’t find fault with the story, and the English localisation seems solid.

I just wish I could pin down more things about why I’m torn on this one right now.

The Mad Welshman, as an important reference, has not seen Chinese Opera. Just want that out there.

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